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Calgary Public Library's Indigenous artist in residence brings new style to traditional work

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Kristy North Peigan has her own studio on the fourth floor of Calgary's Central Library with a variety of her artwork on display.

She starts many of her futuristic pieces digitally on a computer then prints them on canvas.

They're finished with either acrylic or oil paint and it's a style that's catching the eye of many library visitors.

"I'm just so happy and validated by that," she said.

"Because this was kind of the first collection I came out with as an established artist to kind of voice my own vision, so it's hugely validating."

In February, North Peigan started her term as the library's Indigenous artist in residence and was excited to get the call that she'd been chosen.

"A lot of my inspiration comes from technology, comes from futurism, comes from surrealism," she said.

"Also from a lot of the video games I play, comic books, too, and of course the Marvel movies because I mean, you see so much diversity in that."

North Peigan is able to bring colours into her pieces that aren't normally seen in traditional Indigenous paintings.

But while she has a unique style, North Peigan constantly checks with elders for their approval before she puts a new piece on display.

"I got tired of only seeing myself and my identity in a past tense," she said.

"So I took it upon myself, because as an artist, I have the freedom to bring my identity into a future tense."

North Peigan enjoys interacting with the public at the library, especially children who gravitate toward her cosplay pieces.

She not only paints super heroes, but builds wearable costumes – something she wishes she had the chance to see when she was young.

"It got to a point when I was growing up where it wasn't just enough to paint and draw these super-cool characters, I wanted to be those characters," she said.

"So, cosplay was a way to help me come out of my own shell because being Indigenous and being able to cosplay means that I get even more people to talk and bond with for the things that I love."

Jasmine MacGregor, the library's Indigenous place-making co-ordinator, is tasked with placing Indigenous artwork in libraries all over the city.

MacGregor was part of the selection committee looking for the right artist in residence.

"We went through about a handful of applicants, reviewed and debated between ourselves who we thought fits the library's ideas of building community, of showing diversity and artwork," MacGregor said.

She says it's important that the Indigenous artist in residence makes connections with library visitors to expand their worldwide view on art in the city.

"Whenever she's in, you can book time with her to discuss whatever you want to discuss," MacGregor said.

"Whether it's her practice, her views, if you want to ask questions about digital technology, it gives those opportunities to everyone."

North Peigan's term at the library ends April 15.

Your can learn more about the library's Indigenous artist in residence at https://calgarylibrary.ca/events-and-programs/arts-and-culture/artist-in-residence/

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